In the current quest to cover All Things Donald Trump, I haven’t found any major media outlets exploring or dissecting the ideological similarities between Trump’s highly-publicized immigration plan and the policies promoted for years by controversial groups such as Numbers USA, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). These three organizations (and others) have direct links to John Tanton, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) called “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”


The Tanton Network has been around since 1979. In 1993, Tanton wrote, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” 

Since then, many outlets have covered Tanton and his organizations, including The New York Times (read: “The Anti-Immigration Crusader”). The Times report led Tanton to write a letter to the editor, where he stated this: “The truth is that my role in pushing one of the stickiest issues of our time into public debate was far more modest than your article implies.” FAIR also responded to the Times piece with its own response. Before the Times 2011 article, CIS wrote a rather lengthy piece in 2010, defending its efforts and calling out the SPLC and the National Council of La Raza for “smearing” Tanton-founded organizations.


Tanton and his organizations have been scrutinized for years, even from conservatives. In 2013 piece for The Hill, the vice president of governmental affairs for National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference called Tanton’s network “a front for some fringe figures that advocate for population control, Eugenics, and abortion on demand.” Cafe con Leche Republicans, a prominent digital organization of Latino Republicans, has written several pieces about Tanton, with one post saying this: “The Tanton lobby’s messaging to conservatives about immigration enforcement resonates well, but most conservatives don’t support cutting legal immigration levels. Conservatives need to be wary about how these faux conservatives are manipulating the conservative movement.”

In 2012, the “self-deportation” strategy of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign —which many observers concluded was the one of the key reasons why Romney garnered only 27% of the U.S. Latino vote— had several Tanton advocates, including CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian, who said this: “Self-deportation is the core of a policy of attrition through enforcement, which has been the strategic framework for all the pro-enforcement measures of the past several years, at both the federal and state levels.”

Even though a Republican National Committee 2013 memo tried to move away from an immigration rhetoric strategy that did not resonate with U.S. Latino voters, it looks like Trump’s latest immigration plan is straight from the playbook of the Tanton Network. The Washington Post reported on Trump’s plan without mentioning Tanton-linked organizations, saying the campaign’s immigration plan was a series of ideas that “once languished at the edge of Republican politics, confined to think tanks and no-hope bills on Capitol Hill.”

A brief review of Trump’s immigration talking points platform when compared to that of Numbers USA would reveal very similar talking points and ideological positions (by the way, Numbers USA gave Trump an A- in its latest grade for Worker-Protection Immigration report card):

First, here are Trump’s major guiding principles:

1. A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.

2. A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.

3. A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.

Numbers USA shares similar ideas:

“The ethics of closed-immigration are based primarily on the belief that a country’s ethical priority is to its own citizens. To the extent it has ethical obligations to other people, a country should help those people where they reside, not by bringing them into the country and posing harm to its own citizens.”

As you dig deeper into the two platforms, additional ideological similarities between Trump and the Tanton Network emerge. Here are just a few verbatim examples:

End birthright citizenship.
“This remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. By a 2:1 margin, voters say it’s the wrong policy, including Harry Reid who said “no sane country” would give automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.”

Numbers USA:
“Birthright Citizenship is the practice of granting automatic citizenship to children born in the United States. Under current federal law, nearly all children born in the U.S. receive automatic citizenship, regardless of whether their parents are lawfully in the country. This practice has created a magnet for foreign nationals who want their children to have U.S. citizenship and spawned creation of a cottage industry devoted to helping pregnant “tourists” illicitly enter this country for the purpose of giving birth.”

Numbers USA is also touting The Birthright Citizenship Bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve King, the same Rep. King who in 2014 said the following about children who entered the United States with their undocumented parents: “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

As for Reid’s comment the Trump campaign is promoting? In 1993, when the Latino population of Nevada was around 10%. Reid pushed a bill to clarify birthright citzenship. The current Latino population in Nevada is more than 25% now, and Reid has since changed his 1993 position. In fact, in his 2010 U.S. Senate election, Reid won over 90% of the U.S. Latino vote in Nevada.

Trump’s quote also linked to a 2011 Rasmussen Reports poll. Yet it didn’t link to a recent Gallup poll, which stated this: “The U.S. public demonstrates no clear preference on what U.S. immigration levels should be. On this contentious issue, 40% say levels should remain where they are, but only slightly fewer (34%) advocate a decrease in the stream of immigrants. One-quarter of the country prefers an increase in immigration levels, the sole response of the three to see a general increase in support over the past 15 years.”

Besides the birthright citizenship similarities, both Trump and Number USA are quick to also pit Black against Brown. Here are some examples:

Put American workers first.
“Decades of disastrous trade deals and immigration policies have destroyed our middle class. Today, nearly 40% of black teenagers are unemployed. Nearly 30% of Hispanic teenagers are unemployed. For black Americans without high school diplomas, the bottom has fallen out: more than 70% were employed in 1960, compared to less than 40% in 2000. Across the economy, the percentage of adults in the labor force has collapsed to a level not experienced in generations.”

Later in the platform, the campaign says the following:

“We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers in order to: help wages grow, get teenagers back to work, aid minorities’ rise into the middle class, help schools and communities falling behind, and to ensure our immigrant members of the national family become part of the American dream.”

Finally, there is the national security threat:

“Additionally, we need to stop giving legal immigrant visas to people bent on causing us harm. From the 9/11 hijackers, to the Boston Bombers, and many others, our immigration system is being used to attack us.”

What does Numbers USA have to say?

Numbers USA
“Amnesty for illegal workers is not just a slap in the face to black Americans. It’s an economic disaster. I see illegal immigration and the adverse impact that it has on the political empowerment of African Americans, and the impact it has on the job market.” T. WILLARD FAIR, PRESIDENT OF THE URBAN LEAGUE OF GREATER MIAMI, FLA.

Then there is the connection between jobs and the middle class:

“New foreign workers compete with the laid-off and underemployed highly skilled Americans in most professions and occupations, but most foreign workers compete directly in the construction, service and manufacturing industries where unemployment is the highest and where Americans have the least margin of financial security.”

As for terrorism threats, Numbers USA quoted a CIS post threats to national security:

“A retired government employee with extensive national security experience, points to Anwar al-Awlaki —a terrorist with links to jihadists including Umar Farouk Abdulmutullab, who attempted to bomb a jetliner with a bomb hidden in his underwear as the plane prepared to land near Detroit, and Nidal Malik Hasan, who massacred 13 people in 2009 at Fort Hood, Tex.— as an example of how Birthright Citizenship has the potential to benefit enemies of the United States.

It is too early to tell whether Trump’s immigration position and how it is similar to the views of the Tanton Network will play out in a national election. However, there are recent indications that the type of rhetoric and talking points being discussed this week in the mainstream media will alienate U.S. Latino voters even more. For example, this past April, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda —a group of the country’s top Latino advocacy groups and one of the key players in pressuring NBC to drop ties with Trump— called any attempts at changing birthright citizenship “disastrous:”

“Birthright citizenship proposals seek to undermine well-established precedent by altering the legal interpretation and application of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. These proposals would deny citizenship to an entire class of infants born in the United States based on the immigration status of their parents.

“Such legislation would result in an underclass of Latinos that would be subject to disparate and adverse treatment based solely on their ethnicity, the national origin and race of their parents, and signal a return to a pre-Civil War constitutional era.”

Still, Trump is the GOP front-runner. In fact, his lead over other candidates continues to grow with Republican voters.

Is the Trump campaign strategy just looking beyond the U.S. Latino vote and admitting that it has no chance of winning it or even attempting to win it?

Does this become a question of numbers and who actually votes in national elections?

For all the talk about U.S. Latino voting power, it is important to point this out from Pew: “Overall, 48% of Hispanic eligible voters turned out to vote in 2012, down from 49.9% in 2008. By comparison, the 2012 voter turnout rate among blacks was 66.6% and among whites was 64.1%, both significantly higher than the turnout rate among Hispanics.”

Trump’s immigration strategy is saying that more immigrants have led to fewer opportunities for African Americans. Will that type of strategy (Black vs. Brown) play out? Has Trump also tapped into those who would tell Gallup that they believe in the same levels of immigration or decreased numbers—a position the Tanton Network has been pushing for decades?

Nonetheless, it is also important to note these factoids from the very same Pew study:

“The voter turnout rate of naturalized Hispanic immigrants who arrived in the 1990s increased from 41.2% in 2008 to 47.2% in 2012.”

“Much of the growth in the number of Latino eligible voters was driven by Latino youth. Among the 3.8 million Latinos who became eligible to vote between 2008 and 2012, 3.7 million were U.S.-born young Hispanics who entered adulthood. Annually, about 800,000 U.S.-born young Hispanics come of age, making them newly eligible to vote.”

Will these numbers translate to larger voting power in 2016? Can Trump or any other GOP candidate play to the John Tantons and Steven Kings of the world and become the next President of the United States? That is the gamble candidates like Trump are taking. However, if more and more Trump piñatas become the norm for U.S. Latinos, a GOP White House will be extremely difficult to achieve.

Or will it?

8 thoughts on “Trump Immigration Plan: What the Media Ignored

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